For Paula Pangilinan, the Gateway project is personal. The vice president of construction management started her career at Onyx Equities as an assistant property manager before she even officially graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with an architecture degree.
“I was hired because the building that I was assigned to had a lot of construction going on and the property manager at the time felt overwhelmed and needed help from someone who understood it,” Pangilinan recalls, adding that her own local training is what got her foot in the door.
She became an integral part of Onyx well before it acquired One, Two, and Four Gateway Center in 2018 and embarked on a $50 million redevelopment plan for its interconnected concourse level that joins Newark Penn Station and the city for more than 75,000 weekly visitors through New Jersey Transit, PATH, and Amtrak.
“I’ve been imagining Newark’s potential for almost 20 years. It’s really exciting to be an active player in its transformation into a hub for business, retail, entertainment, and dining for Newark residents, employees, students, and visitors,” says Pangilinan, who was born in the Philippines but grew up in Maywood, New Jersey, after relocating from Guam as a child.
Newark is home to esteemed educational institutions including Rutgers University, Essex Community College, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, and Pangilinan’s alma mater New Jersey Institute of Technology. And now Onyx has further boosted Newark’s presence on the map, attracting high-profile local, national, and internationally known tenants like New Jersey Governor Murphy, Grow New Jersey, and Panasonic.
“We are expanding our role as the ‘Gateway to Newark’ by opening the building’s ground floor to street-facing retail for the first time in the building’s 50-plus year history,” Pangilinan says. “We’re enticing local and nationally known dining options to the Junction and its new Jewel Box entryway. This will be a retail experience at the center of Newark’s economic revitalization.”
When completed, the 100,000 square feet of space will feature a two-story steel, aluminum, and glass portal into the development’s retail, food, and beverage options while also offering free access to Newark Fiber’s 10G network. “We’re creating a destination,” Pangilinan says.
To build the Gateway successfully, Pangilinan and Onyx have brought in the necessary experts. There are the usual suspects like an architect, an engineer, a general contractor, and a plethora of consultants. One of those consultants is currently focused on shoring up the Gateway’s wayfinding signage.
Onyx predicts that improvements to the lobby and skybridge concourse will be wrapped up in the end of 2021, with structural components of the full project targeted for completion in the first half of 2022. Retailers and new leases should be ready for move-ins in the late summer of 2022.
“At the end of  this will definitely be a different place,” Pangilinan says. “I’m starting to see it now because as I walk through it already feels different. It’s just so open and vibrant.”
The VP certainly remains busy. “The greatest challenge for my role is keeping up,” she says. “I started at Onyx when they owned about two million square feet. I thought I was busy then. Today, if someone asked me that, I’d say that was cute. Now we own about 9.5 million square feet.”
The challenges of fast-paced growth have helped shape Pangilinan into the VP that she is today. “We say our [priority] lists don’t go vertically; [they go] horizontally. Everything is on top of the list. It’s a mile long but everything is on the top of the list.”
While that may intimidate most people, overseeing New Jersey’s future is something that Pangilinan relishes. “It’s cliche but a little girl from Pampanga, Philippines, is now VP of construction management at one of the most well-known firms in Jersey,” she says.